I did plan on checking this show out but after fans highly recommended I give the show a go ASAP I bumped it up ahead of schedule…The following anime is a very peculiar one due to the fact that its appeal can and cannot be properly be explained at the same time but I will do my best as we take a look at Alice & Zoroku.
WARNING! Episode 1 features CG cars that will make “Anti-Anime CG” viewers feel nauseous. Worry not though as the cars in later episodes are less stomach churning.
Genres: Slice of Life, Action, Drama, Psychological, Supernatural, Science-Fiction
Number of Episodes: 12 (Episode 1 is 40+ minutes. The rest are the regular 20+)
Plot Summary: A group of young girls possess a mysterious power known as “Alice’s Dream,” which gives them the ability to turn their thoughts into reality. Detained and experimented upon, these youths are locked away in secret until one of them manages to escape. Her name is Sana—a girl with the power to ignore the very laws of physics. When this willful powerhouse crosses paths with a stubborn old man named Zouroku, his carefully-ordered life will never be the same again.
There are two important things people need to understand before picking this show up:
- The first and the second half of the show vary drastically in tone.
- One of the show’s main protagonists is a sheltered girl who knows very little about the outside world and IS PRONE to throwing temper tantrums, yet still manages to be likable, but again she is bratty.
Let us discuss the first part of the two above warnings. See, the show’s first half has an action-drama piece where it does not often take a break. The chill moments are far and few, maybe one episode is more lax than the others. Zoroku and Sana must overcome one challenge after another from their calculated and relentless pursuers who consist of emotionally unstable employees…especially one in particular who gives our heroes a VERY ROUGH time. In short the first half is a mostly action-packed thrill ride with some lighthearted stuff but mostly heart-pounding moments and a cool battle or two.
The second half is for the most part the daily life of a girl with superpowers and the people around her. Emphasis on the superpowers part because as life teaches everyone, one can never let their guard down. Despite this however, the tone is considerably calmer for the majority of it. That is before the “final boss” makes an appearance, but…labeling this person as the “final boss” is a stretch. Let us just say it is a much different kind of climax than people are used to.
Now despite the show’s two halves having drastically different tones neither takes away from the main theme of the story, a sheltered little girl with next to nil knowledge of the outside world learning what it means to exist, contemplating her existence and purpose for being, and trying to adapt to the outside world and the people around her, both naughty and nice and develop/improve her social skills with the help of Zoroku, his granddaughter Sanae and a few others. Also through Sana everyone around her also learns stuff about themselves and those around them. Life, the purpose for being and other important questions regarding existence are brought up numerous times throughout the show’s run, all from the perspective of a sheltered girl with superpowers, the “Dreams of Alice” and a few others who also have “Dreams of Alice” within them. There is a point in the story where this is discussed in great detail.
Having discussed the narrative, theme and tone let us go over the pacing. For the most part it is handled well, however, the first half of the show in particular does feature some characters that are never seen again. Some of them understandable but others, one particular person with “Dreams of Alice” is relegated to either “manga lure” or “maybe in the 2nd season, if there is one”. Others who saw the show will know who I am referring to. There are also some issues with how the first half ended, mainly its conclusion that felt very convenient. The second half is handled much better with its calmer pacing with serious issues. The climax though is, again, unconventional in a good way because it stays true to the main theme.
As mentioned above the second half is more lax than the first and is also where the heavier focus on Sana adapting to the world occurs and also where she has enough time to contemplate important questions regarding her very being together with friends and family. This going on till the climax, which as I said before is not what a casual viewer would expect.
The animation is nice and pretty (CG cars in episode 1 notwithstanding). The superpowers being referred to as “Dreams of Alice” obviously refers to Alice in Wonderland so expect some delightfully trippy stuff. Peeps who saw and enjoyed Flip Flappers will feel right at home. Speaking of Flip Flappers the overall soundtrack does its job but the OP and ED are excellent, especially the ED that gives off “Flip Flap Flip Flap” vibes. Well it is sung by the same person and group so yeah.
The cast features likable people alongside Sana and jerks who are not one-dimensional (at least the ones we get to see more than 3 minutes total screen time of but those characters are not important). Zoroku is a grumpy late-50’s to mid-60’s man who is rough around the edges and does not show mercy to evildoers or troublemakers but is a very kind, caring and understanding guy deep down. Sanae is his adorable granddaughter who has a weakness for cuteness, especially Sana. Then there are other allies such as Ichijo and her trusty fangirl hacker. The Hinagiri Twins are also nice.
Then we have Sana herself. As mentioned above she is a bratty girl who lived a sheltered life for a very long time being experimented on so yes, she will need all the help she can get to adapt to the outside world. Aside from her temper tantrums and feeling “frazzled” from time to time she is a very believable energetic little girl who just needs kindness, love, nurturing and guidance to learn and grow up to be a respectable woman. She is also adorable, provided the viewer can put up with her naughtiness.
As far as yuri on the show goes Sana and Sanae give off strong vibes and the big climax also features a duo with major vibes. Oh and of course there is the fangirl hacker gushing over Ichijou’s sexiness and badassery. Rightfully so.
Overall Alice & Zoroku is not at all what I expected, in a good way. It ended up being something extra special with lots of interesting dialogue, enjoyable slice of life stuff, intense action and drama in the first half and a very neat cast for the most part. Frequenters of this blog will have little trouble adjusting to the SoL elements but even readers who are not SoL fans may find something to enjoy with the show’s drama and conversation pieces…provided they can tolerate Sana. I personally am glad I bumped this up on my schedule. Pretty good stuff.